Posts Tagged ‘Feline’

I just finished burying my belovéd cat Kanji beneath one of the great eucalyptus trees in the garden at Edgemont Place. I had to do this once before with the Murdoch family cat, Frodo, in 1997, after I moved him in with my first wife and our four cats Kalvin, Anastasia, Hobbes, and Atari on Sutter Street. Frodo was over 16 years old, a canny outdoors cat with a penchant for rubbing so vigorously on the edge of roofs that he’d almost fall off. He had never been away from the fiefdom on Amiford, but the people who were leasing the house while my parents were in Canada were “allergic to cats” and didn’t want him around. It was only a couple of months later that he quit eating — even hand-shredded warm chicken — and I knew it was time for him to go.

 


Frodo

 

When I took Frodo to a highly impersonal 24 hour clinic to figure out what was wrong with him, the diagnosis was swift and sure: kidney failure. He wouldn’t miraculously heal and start eating and beating the shit out of the younger cats when they wouldn’t leave him alone like he was doing last week. It was clear that it was time, and when I looked into his eyes when I put him down, he was so much wiser and greater than I could ever be; he thanked me with a wink as he slipped over the edge and was no longer there in feline form.

I had no cat carrier at that time, so I took Frodo to the clinic in a paper ream box with a lid. As I took his body home in the same box, driving west on the I8, the clouds poured sunshine through a halo-like hole in the sky over the ocean, and I had to pull over to let the tears course down my face and to scream how unfair it is that I am left behind with all of this grief and a hole in my heart. I went home, got a shovel out of the shed, and drove to Monaco Street near the Amiford residence. I hiked up the drainage ditch I used to play in and around as a child, struck off into the depths of the old acacia bushes, and found a spot under a tree that I thought Frodo would like. And I buried his body there, in the wilderness behind the house where he would disappear for hours and sometimes days, hunting, napping, sunning, and doing whatever it is cats do when they go adventuring. Performing this ceremony made me whole over time: I knew I had done the right thing and done it with power and grace. It is not an easy thing to do.

 

Kan*Ji

the Japanese Kanji for Kanji

 

It doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

The week before this one, on Thursday, I woke up with Kanji curled up between my legs where I had fallen asleep on the couch. What puts this into perspective is that Kanji does not like to come inside the house. She’s always been like this; I am certain her previous owners didn’t allow her inside, and it was hilarious to watch her at Saratoga — where I inherited her — with an open door and a bowl of wet fud just inside enticing her to cross that threshold. When I moved and took her to Panorama, she stayed in my room for two weeks straight, terrified and freaking out that I had moved her from where she had always been. After she ventured outside, she found the spacious basement and spent her time sleeping in the rafters, only emerging to demand fresh kibble and occasionally sprint halfway up a tree when chased by the native cats Brother, Jedi, and Vader. She would continue to sleep at the foot of the bed every so often; a pleasant morning surprise keeping my feet warm and blinking her big blue eyes at me as I would be sleepily slapping the nightstand for the snooze button. At Edgemont, Kanji quickly took up residence under the house a

 

somebody is dreaming...

Kanji abed

 

gain when I let her outside and removed an anti-rodent mesh from the sub-basement. Over time, she found many hidey-holes, but spent most of her time curled up snoozing in the beat-up garage, sometimes on top of my carpeted DJ coffins or speakers. She did get used to coming in the house in order to feed and water, though, so I got used to her occasionally showing up inside, although she much preferred to enter via the window rather than crossing a doorjamb. So it was unusual to have Kanji curled up next to me, rubbing blood and pus all over my comforter from her ruined nose and ear because she just couldn’t quit being a kitten and, well, she wanted to communicate with me that she needed me.

I spent the last week with Kanji as an indoor cat. She had gotten skinny — skin and bones, really, so I plied her with wet fud and booted Brother out of the house so she could eat in peace. Lots of time was devoted to scratching her in all the right places, and gently, so when she would encourage me to rip the scabs off of her nose and ear to drain the grisly shit that was going on underneath, my fingers could dance around it. She peed on everything and I didn’t give a fuck; that Thursday she came in the house, I promised her that I would take care of this once and for all, and so we hung out hard-core: nerding it up while I solved Halo: Reach on Legendary mode with her next to me for good luck; watching Netflix Kung Fu movies until 4 in the morning on school nights; hand-feeding her American cheese slices and black forest ham on her Mexican blanket on the couch and hearing her little “om nom nom” noises; waking up in the middle of the night as she decided that she wanted to sleep closer to me, so she would carefully crawl on to my chest or between my calves and pretend like she had always been there. Kanji was fiercely independent, but she knew better than I what time it was.

 

Handsome Girl Modelling School pose #113

Kanji on the back of my couch

 

I took Kanji to Heather at Cabrillo Vet four or five months ago to find out what was wrong with the persistent scabs on her ear and nose. Heather and her whole staff, by the way, are the greatest lovers of animals on the planet. Referring to me as “Dad”, Heather told me several months ago that this was fast-moving, untreatable skin cancer, and as tears welled up in my eyes, she informed me that Kanji had 1-6 months to live. Today I took Kanji back to Cabrillo and Heather to put her down. Over the last week, I would come home from work at GreenHouse, drop my heavy backpack of tech, and go looking for her. I was worried that Kanji would try some disappearing bullshit on me. At first, I would find her laid out on the couch somewhere, but as this last week went by, I would have minor panic attacks and search the yard fruitlessly, thinking that Kanji either couldn’t get back in the window or that she was trying some dumb “I’m just going to disappear” ploy. She was always inside the house, but these last three days, she was so embarrassed with her incontinence and appearance, she found a secret spot in my back closet where she would hide until I coaxed her out of it and encouraged her back to the couch. Usually, this involved playing Lady Gaga tunes and putting fresh food in her bowl; she loves teh Gaga while she delicately ate while trying not to bang her scabby nose into the kibble.

So the second vet visit ever was to put her out of this misery. I am comforted that I spent good time with Kanji and have lots of pictures and even a little bit of video (where she got excited and tore the crap out of the back of my hand). Heather and Cabrillo are very efficient; I signed some paperwork and there was no wait. We went right back to the exam room, and they gave me a scant two minutes to let Kanji out of the carrier and let her freak out and run around a little. As I put her back on the table for the procedure, I got one good look in her big baby blue eyes, and saw them change from fear to resignation to trust. I trust you. I. Trust. You. And that is how Kanji went forth into the great beyond.

 

This is where I buried Kanji

This is where I buried Kanji

 

I’m an Eagle Scout; I pride myself on being prepared and being good in the “clutch” situation. As I drove home with Kanji’s still form in the cat carrier, I couldn’t help but look at her as if she was just sleeping. When I got home, I didn’t like her body in the carrier, so I carefully pulled her out and laid her on her circular cat-tower-throne that she liked when she was sunning and sleeping. She looked like she always did, sans an infrequent mini-bath and look around while squinting and licking her chops before resuming her nap. I found my shovel under the stairs and dug a deep hole next to two of the massive eucalyptus trees here at Edgemont place. Curling her up in that hole, and arranging her limbs to cover her eyes and give her the semblance of a nap reminded me of doing the same thing with Frodo. And that’s when I knew that it doesn’t get any easier the second time around.

As I updated Kanji’s Catbook profile to provide how long she had been loved, I realized that I have known her since 2008. It is 2010; that is two years. But when you love unconditionally — something I have a problem doing with humans, but rarely with animals — that is a lifetime. I have received many beautiful expressions of sorrow and understanding from my friends and family, and I appreciate them all; however, none of them goes as far as a simple meow from Brother: “Are you OK? I love you. BTW where’s Kanji? Can I have her fud?”

Kanji is physically gone, like so many other cherished pets and loved ones, but that does not relinquish the responsibility of playing it forward: lives are spent setting examples, and I remind myself constantly that this is why they were here in the first place: to move and inspire me now. Even after I have laid one of mine to rest in the cool earth. Kanji is not even a girl; Heather took one look at her and laughed, stating “that’s a boy-kitten, Dad.” Having known this for over four months, I still could not quit referring to her as a girl; Kanji didn’t care about the context — only the tone of voice and the love contained within and that there was Fancy Feest involved if he/she acted cute enough. This is unconditional love, and I can haz it with cats; human beings, though, I am not so sure about. Kanji was like that: suspicious of “hoomins” — this is, perhaps, one lesson that is worth remembering; and, that once alleviated, love is all I have to give to you.

I took my cat Kanji to the vet because her ear wasn’t getting any better. Ever since I have known her, she’s had problems with her ears being mangy. I’m a pretty live-and-let-live pet owner — no collars and indoor / outdoor freedom, occasional wet fud and cursing them for being filthy fleabag dirt-tracking loveable spoiled brats — but after neighbors and girlfriend insisted they would cat-nap Kanji to take her to the vet, I had to act. And I knew that Kanji would hate me for it.

I inherited Kanji from the legendary six-month residence at the OB Saratoga crib. When I was forced to move out by unforseen witchery, I sat down with this cat that came with the property and explained that there were two options:

  • Stay here and find a new owner after I have spoiled you rotten treated you like the princess you are, or…
  • Come along with me and my ride

It was pretty clear, if you were there, that she chose me.

Scrapbook Kanji

Scrapbook Kanji / photo credit; LdlN

Kanji is an OB alley cat. She doesn’t take shit from nobody; she expresses discontent with bared claws and a wicked repeated paw whipping to feline, canine, and human alike. Moxie is her middle name. At her home at Saratoga, there were raccoons, skunks, dogs, opossums — never mind other stray cats — and Kanji would just sit relaxed but warily on the top of the porch table and let these creatures do whatever they came to do, as long as it wasn’t bothering her.

So Kanji decided to throw her lot in with me. When I had to move, I hauled her down to the Panorama Compound in La Mesa kicking and screaming, where I kept her in my studio for about a week before letting her explore outside. She spent most of her time either curled up on my futon at my feet or in the Mithril mines under the hosue itself. There were three other cats already on the property — Brother, Jedi, and Vader — who she decided were irritating and unworthy, so she would pointedly ignore them as much as possible. She loved the 1.1 acres of land to explore, yet seemed happiest curled up in the dark spaces beneath the house or — when she got used to being inside — being inside my room.

When I moved to Edgemont Place, she was furious with me — again — and although I kept her inside for a couple of days, at the first opportunity, she absconded to the beat-up wreck of a garage on the property, eventually becoming master of the rafters. Kanji would emerge when she heard the sound of my 1993 Nissan Truck engine after I would come home from a day of work at GreenHouse to miao and follow me to the house where I would have to open the doors for her so that Her Highness wouldn’t have to jump through the open window to get in and get some fresh kibble. If there is anything Kanji loves more than me, its her “fud”.

I eats on duh tables; dose udder onez kin eats below decks

dose udder onez kin eats below decks

git mah wet fud, hooman!

git mah wet fud, hooman

Handsome Girl Modelling School

Handsome Girl Modelling School

Because I have no idea where Kanji came from, originally, I also have no idea how old she is. This is just a strange fact that you just learn to accept. Also, she probably likes it that way because she’s a girl. The hoodrats around the Saratoga Party Palace called her “Cloud”, “Ghost”, and other nicknames because nobody really knew what her real name was. I forget who it was, but one of the older neighbors speculated that she belonged to the original owner of the house I was renting who had moved to a facility; apparently I was renting the house from his or her daughter. I think it was this neighbor that seemed to remember that her name started with a K. Kanji came to mind when I was playing with her; after a couple of years, she knows her name when I call it. It has taken equally as long to work on our relationship; she is still skittish and very particular about everything, especially touching her (she likes her butt scratched and if you don’t scratch good enough or long enough, she will bat your hand and tell you to get back to work).

That is why I never took her to the vet before. Every time I have to stuff Kanji in my truck or in a carrier to go somewhere, I lose her for about a week as she sulks and spits and swears she hates me. It’s a lot like having another girlfriend. I knew she wouldn’t run away, but I could always feel her eyes glowering from the shadows of the shed or the garage or from under the house shooting laserbeams of control into my head like some sort of feline Onceler: “you will put three open cans of warmed Turkey and Giblets wet fud, a diamond tiara, and a QP of White Lightning catnip in the bucket or I will eat your eyeballs out while you sleep.” Kanji is the master of making you feel like an abusive husband, looking at you reproachfully and measuring out her trust to you again by the spoonful. She is very intelligent and unlike many cats who can be memory-wiped with a can of Fancy Feast after a traumatic trip, Kanji will not forget the embarrassing and totally inappropriate “you-don’t-put-your-hands-on-me, my-FATHER-doesn’t-put-his-hands-on-me” treatment that vehicular transport entails. It is totally against the way a graduate of the Handsome Girl Modelling School is supposed to be treated. I love this about her personality, and I will very rarely overstep these boundaries and devastate her pride by forcing her into a 1′ x 2′ box to be taken to a strange person who is going to stick a thermometer in your ass and feel you up in the harsh light of a vet office.

Kitty Love-Love

Kitty Love-Love Kanji

It is indescribably awesome and horrible that I can walk out my front door, which overlooks this beautiful canyon that my brother Kleptus is guerrilla landscaping with native plants and find Kanji curled up peacefully on one of these old wooden Adirondack chairs half in and half out of the sun. The cancer that is melting away her left ear and left nostril is due to SUNBURN. Melanoma, essentially the same thing that humans (and dogs and even horses) get when sunshine is dangerous. It can’t be helped, except by keeping Kanji inside 24-7, and I won’t do that. Is it her fault that she wants to sleep in the sunshine and the long-term result is that she is going to die. Relatively soon. Every time I can touch her while she is alive is facing the fact that I am going to watch her face get eaten off by cancer, and I am directly responsible for her quality of life QoL). That is, until I make the awful decision for her that enough is enough, and it is time to go.

Wear sunscreen, sheeple. And how about we fix that ozone layer. I don’t have children, but I do love my cats as my kids. I have godchildren I adore. If you cannot get on board the “save the planet” bandwagon, then I think you give up your right to be on this green Earth.

So when does it transition from Kanji enjoying the sunset of her life and me having to decide QoL for her? She is still audacious and strong, she eats like a pig and mugs for attention like a kitten. At the urging of my girlfriend, Lilith de la Nuit, and my neighbors, Dawn and Jenne, I took a half-day off and stuffed Ms Thang in the cat carrier. I took her to Heather at Cabrillo Vet Center for Kanji’s first visit ever to the vet to check out this ear and nose thing. Now we know what it is, and what we can do about it. Heather was extraordinarily kind and sensitive, even though she was in the office with walking pneumonia. She is that dedicated to animals and their “Moms and Dads”. If money was not an option, there is pretty much nothing that can be done to save Kanji’s life. It is a matter of QoL for one to six months from June 15th, 2010. And this decision is mine.

Kanji humbles me with her bravery. She knows she is dying, and yet manages to ham it up and act like a kitten

Kanji-licious

The Duchess / photo credit: LdlN

and squeeze all of the attention and specialness she can out of her situation. When she mugs for some love, and you give it to her, she gets so corny that she wants to rub up against everything — including with her torn-up ear, where she rips the scab off and then shakes her head, flinging blood everywhere. It is ghastly and somehow beautiful that she does not care but for the moment. And for love.

[later, August 10, 2010]

I have had this blog post in draft for over a month and a half now, and I have realized that I can’t finish it just yet. I can just post what I have and do a Part 2 later on. Kanji has almost a whole ear missing and her nose is halfway gone, but she does not seem in pain or too much discomfort. It pains me to hear her sneeze occasionally, and snuffle a bit, but her big blue eyes say that it is not time yet. I am comforted that she has already beaten the odds of the low end of her possible time frame on the planet, and frankly, she is keeping me company, maybe more than I am doing service to her.

Every day when I come home from work, I whistle for her, and she usually comes trotting from the garage where she sleeps, or out from under a piece of lawn furniture with a raspy miao. She’s been waiting for me to arrive because I am reliable like that, and Kanji wants to point out that her special on-the-table fud bowl is empty. And that she missed me.

I will miss her, now and soon.